Reimagining Como’s mission for a generation committed to making a difference
From its early roots at the turn of the 20th century, Como Park Zoo and Conservatory has introduced five generations of Minnesota children to the wonders of nature. Now we’re serving the sixth — a cohort of kids, teens and young adults that demographers often call “Generation Z.”
The first generation of “digital natives,” they’re also notable for their deep desire to do good. In fact, 26 percent of 16- to 19-year-olds currently volunteer, 60 percent want jobs that make a difference in the world, and 76 percent are concerned about humanity’s impact on the planet.
“The young people Como is serving today are part of the largest and most diverse generation in the country’s history, and their commitment to making the world a better place is really inspiring,” says Jackie Sticha, president of Como Friends, which helped to fund a new strategic plan for Como’s education department aimed, in part, at serving the special needs and interests of Generation Z. “With nearly a million school age visitors every year, Como Park Zoo and Conservatory is in a unique position to teach the next generation about the power that individuals have when it comes to supporting conservation, and we want to do right by them.”
Did You Know?
- Como Park Zoo and Conservatory is Minnesota’s largest conservation classroom, teaching a total of 557,195 kids and adults through education programs that explore what we can each do to contribute to a healthier environment for all living things.
- Percent of people who feel that zoos and aquariums teach children about how people can protect animals and the habitats they depend on: 94 percent.
- Como hosts up to ten free family-friendly conservation programs every day, from the “bear banter” at Polar Bear Odyssey to the public training sessions at Gorilla Forest, that reach more than 275,000 kids and adults every year.
For instance, contributions to Como Friends helped to launch the new Residency Programs at Como that invite area classrooms to relocate to Como for a week of immersive cross-disciplinary learning. Private contributions are also fueling the new second grade field trip program gearing up in St. Paul, and an innovative new Youth Engagement Program that will teach conservation-minded teens how to launch environmental improvement projects in their own communities.
As the state’s largest provider of conservation education, Como is uniquely positioned to teach more than 950,000 school age visitors what they can do to make a difference. In fact, a recent study conducted by PGAV Destinations found that Gen Z strongly supports zoos and aquariums, and believes that connecting animals and people inspires conservation-minded choices. Young people also trust the environmental information they receive from zoos, with 70 percent ranking them among the best places to learn about animals and wildlife—higher than nature centers (60 percent) and even the outdoors (48 percent).
“For thousands of Minnesota kids, Como is that very first point of entry into the natural world—and we hope those visits help spark a life-long passion for conservation,” says Sticha. “We’re proud of helping Como make the progressive improvements to animal habitats and training that this next generation values, and we look forward to supporting future improvements like the new Seals and Seal Lions Habitat that will help serve them even better.”